Tear gas

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French police using tear gas
A can of ter gas that just exploded

Tear gas is the name for a number of chemical compounds. It is not actually a gas.[1] It is a fine powder or very small drops of liquid. The chemicals in the powder are acidic and cause pain in the eyes. Tear gas may cause temporary blindness for up to 45 minutes. Tear gas is commonly used by police to control crowds. Phenacyl chloride (CN) and CS gas are two of the chemicals that are often found in tear gas. Pepper spray is another chemical compound that acts very similarly and is sometimes used to control crowds.

As a chemical weapon[change | change source]

Tear gas is a chemical weapon, and was used as a weapon in the First World War. The 1925 Geneva Protocol is not specific enough about the use of irritating agents, such as tear gas in war. The Chemical Weapons Convention, of 1992 prohibits the use of tear gas for warfare. The use as a riot control agent is not covered by the treaty.

Problems of using tear gas[change | change source]

A paramedic treating an protester, during the Venezuelan protests of 2014.

The use of tear gas is also has problems:[2][3] Usually, cartidges of tear gas are thrown; they can hit and injure people.[4] A case of serious vascular injury from tear gas shells has also been reported from Iran, with high rates of associated nerve injury (44%) and amputation (17%),[5] as well as instances of head injuries in young people.[6] Directly exposing skin to tear gas may lead to chemical burns and allergic reactions of the skin.

In the short term, the medical consequences are usually limited to skin inflammation. delayed complications are also possible: people with respiratory conditions such as asthma are likely to need medical attention[7] and may sometimes require hospitalization or even ventilation support.[8] Skin exposure to CS may cause chemical burns[9] or induce allergic contact dermatitis.[7][10] When people are hit at close range or are severely exposed, eye injuries involving scarring of the cornea can lead to a permanent loss in visual acuity.[11] Frequent or high levels of exposure carry increased risks of respiratory illness.[12]

References[change | change source]

  1. Rowlatt, Jason (2 July 2011). "The 'rituals' of the Greek riots". From Our Own Correspondent. BBC. Retrieved 2011-10-30.
  2. Heinrich U (September 2000). "Possible lethal effects of CS tear gas on Branch Davidians during the FBI raid on the Mount Carmel compound near Waco, Texas" (PDF). Prepared for The Office of Special Counsel John C. Danforth.
  3. Hu H, Fine J, Epstein P, Kelsey K, Reynolds P, Walker B (August 1989). "Tear gas—harassing agent or toxic chemical weapon?". JAMA 262 (5): 660–3. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430050076030. PMID 2501523. Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. https://web.archive.org/web/20131029183849/http://desastres.usac.edu.gt/documentos/pdf/eng/doc8080/doc8080-contenido.pdf. 
  4. Clarot F, Vaz E, Papin F, Clin B, Vicomte C, Proust B (October 2003). "Lethal head injury due to tear-gas cartridge gunshots". Forensic Sci. Int. 137 (1): 45–51. doi:10.1016/S0379-0738(03)00282-2. PMID 14550613. 
  5. Wani, ML; Ahangar, AG; Lone, GN; Singh, S; Dar, AM; Bhat, MA; Ashraf, HZ; Irshad, I (Mar 2011). "Vascular injuries caused by tear gas shells: surgical challenge and outcome.". Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences 36 (1): 14–7. PMC 3559117. PMID 23365472. 
  6. Wani, AA; Zargar, J; Ramzan, AU; Malik, NK; Qayoom, A; Kirmani, AR; Nizami, FA; Wani, MA (2010). "Head injury caused by tear gas cartridge in teenage population.". Pediatric Neurosurgery 46 (1): 25–8. doi:10.1159/000314054. PMID 20453560. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Schep, LJ; Slaughter, RJ; McBride, DI (Dec 30, 2013). "Riot control agents: the tear gases CN, CS and OC—a medical review.". Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps 161 (2): 94–9. doi:10.1136/jramc-2013-000165. PMID 24379300. 
  8. Carron, PN; Yersin, B (19 June 2009). "Management of the effects of exposure to tear gas". BMJ 338: b2283. doi:10.1136/bmj.b2283. PMID 19542106. http://www.bmj.com/content/338/bmj.b2283?view=long&pmid=19542106. 
  9. Worthington E, Nee PA (May 1999). "CS exposure—clinical effects and management". J Accid Emerg Med 16 (3): 168–70. doi:10.1136/emj.16.3.168. PMC 1343325. PMID 10353039. 
  10. Smith, J; Greaves, I (March 2002). "The use of chemical incapacitant sprays: a review". J Trauma 52 (3): 595–600. doi:10.1097/00005373-200203000-00036. PMID 11901348. https://secure.muhealth.org/~ed/students/articles/JTrauma_52_p0595.pdf. Retrieved 24 June 2013. 
  11. Oksala A, Salminen L (December 1975). "Eye injuries caused by tear-gas hand weapons". Acta Ophthalmol (Copenh) 53 (6): 908–13. doi:10.1111/j.1755-3768.1975.tb00410.x. PMID 1108587. 
  12. Rothenberg, C; Achanta, S; Svendsen, ER; Jordt, SE (August 2016). "Tear gas: an epidemiological and mechanistic reassessment.". Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1378 (1): 96–107. doi:10.1111/nyas.13141. PMC 5096012. PMID 27391380. 

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